English Reviews (Reviews Total Language : 28 reviews)
“Kyo-Kaiseki at a Michelin Two-Star Restaurant”
In our previous trip to Kyoto, we had tried in vain to reserve a table at the immensely popular Michelin three-star Kikunoi in the Gion-Maruyama district, and had to settle for the two-star Roan Kikunoi in Shijo-Kiyamachi, which exceeded our expectations. Unfortunately we were again unable to get a... table at the three-star Kikunoi in February this year as it was apparently booked up by Chinese tourists celebrating Chinese New Year in Kyoto. Our hotel concierge then suggested that we give Kenniji Gion Maruyama a try, as it was also a Michelin two-star restaurant. While some kaiseki meals can still leave us a little hungry, this wasn't one of them. There was a total of twelve elaborate dishes and the meal took us almost three hours! The highlights were (not in any particular order): 1) The private room. 2) The personal chef grilling our crabs and abalone right outside our room looking into a nice garden. 3) The Ama--zake, a sweet drink made from fermented rice or sake lees. 4) The Sakizuke (Kyo-kaiseki appetiser) comprising grated filefish, liver, ginkgo nut, bamboo shoots on a giant grated radish. 5) The Setsubun-mori supposedly to ward off evil and usher in good fortune (eight beautifully presented items with highlights such as Inarizushi (sushi rice wrapped in fried bean curd), Kinko-kimi-sushi (sea cucumber sushi with golden egg), Hiiragi-iwashi (grilled sardine) as well as Fukumame-fukume-ni (good luck beans), Issun-mame (broad bean) and Kuromame (black beans). 6) The Japanese Owan Sumashi-jiru (bowl of soup containing interesting ingredients such as Japanese tilefish, white maitake mushroom and dried ovary of sea cucumber). 7) The main dish of Yakimono comprising Awabi-yaki (grilled abalone) and Kimo (abalone liver) which I chose over the grilled crab my dinner companions had. (This was when the personal chef appeared and grilled the items with the garden as the backdrop.) 8) The Mukozuke (sashimi dish) of Hirami (flatfish), Uchiwaebi (prawn) and Ika (squid), topped with a dab of uni (sea urchin). The Takiawase (dish with assorted ingredients) was impressively presented and covered with a huge fern but it was just too much, especially with an entire "pot" made of turnip filled with soft-boiled egg and a taro-like tuber, and topped with unagi (eel). I think the chef(s) tried too hard to impress. Sometimes less is more. We began the meal enthusiastically, full of anticipation and appreciation of all the extra touches put into each of the initial dishes. However, by the eighth dish, especially after the very filling "turnip pot", we had had more than enough. It became almost an effort trying to finish the rest of the dishes, even though the Chinmi (dish with "delicate taste and flavour") comprised a special assortment of An-kimo (Japanese anglerfish liver), Kumoko-ponzu-kagen (boiled ovary of Japanese cod with orange-based sauce), Goma-ae (vegetables dressed with ground sesame), Shiro-kikurage (white cloud ear mushrooms), Ume-nankin (Japanese pumpkin shaped like a plum flower), etc, etc. Another thing that failed to impress was the rice dish that was served like a porridge, even though it was rice with Mentaiko (grated salted cold roe) in Atojiru (soup) with Uzumi-tofu (well-stewed tofu), Konbu (sea kelp), Kawa-nori (laver), Kuko-no-mi (Chinese wolfberry fruit), etc, etc. The expensive meal was unfortunately the only one we had in Kyoto where we were longing to get back to our hotel. It was a classic case of "too much of a good thing". Considering the number of dishes and the no-holds-barred approach, it should have been a value-for-money meal despite the price tag. However, while I wish to be fair, I have to honestly say that it would have been better if there were fewer dishes and more simplicity/less complexity. While it was still quite an exquisite culinary experience, we agreed unanimously that the Roan Kikunoi had a greater "wow factor" in terms of food quality, balanced portions and service. And the next time we visit Kyoto, we must plan ahead and reserve a table at the three-star Kikunoi that seems to have eluded us for some time...
Visited February 2016
“Excellent Japanese Kaiseki”
The restaurant has an authentic Kyoto feel to it. Everything is tatami once you stepped in to the dining area. I ate one of the freshest sashimi I have ever had, paired with their amazing yuzu sauce. The course menu is seasonal and reservation is a must. It is also the first time I have seen a live ...fish struggling to catch their breath as they are put on a plate before me, before being impaled and barbecued live. It was a horrible scene. Overall, the meal was excellent though.
Visited August 2015
“An unforgettable experience at this Michelin 2-Star Restaurant”
Four of us visited this restaurant in November 2014 and ordered the 31,025 yen set meal. I made reservation online and it was relatively easy to secure a table compared to other renowned Kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto. However, sometimes when it comes too easy, it may start to tell you something. J...ust before the trip, I went to Tabelog to research once again about this restaurant and surprised by the sudden drop of marks and ranking. Somewhat a doubtful feeling but I still went on with it. It was a rainy night when we visited the restaurant. There was nobody welcoming guests at the entrance. When we finally got in, the doorman came out but did not offer to take our wet umbrellas either (somewhat strange...) We were led to a separate room. The lady serving us told us to put down the belongings on the floor. When I asked her where we should put our coats, she just pointed to the floor and said: "Put them there as well please." Even a cheap izakaya would offer to hang your coat.... It was quite shocking for such a high end restaurant (which costs USD300 per person) to ask a customer to put their coats on the floor. Then the waitress asked what drinks we would like and she mixed up our order even though it was just 4 of us. My friend wanted tea but got a glass of water so she kindly requested to have it changed but only got it after asking 3 times in total. Most of the time that followed we were just left alone in this stuffy room with no air ventilation and no one came to attend to our needs (we did not know how to get a person at all as there is no ringing bell as this is supposed to be a high-end restaurant) After waiting for half an hour, finally the lady came back to serve our first dish. As soon as she put the dish on the table, she ran away immediately without explaining how to eat the dish. In the end, the beef on the stone grill became too tough as we did not know it had to be eaten quickly. Neither did I know the raw shrimp on the side was supposed to be grilled on the stone. I ate it assuming it was a sashimi by mistake. The female owner stopped by to serve us the welcoming sake after 10 minutes and explained to us when we asked her. But the food was already spoiled. One of the dishes was crab and persimmon. However, my friend was served with a rotten one just like a "Halloween" version. Kaiseki meal is supposed to be high quality and attends to every single detail from ingredient selection, display, the plates/bowls, to even the eating environment. It was a complete shock to me when I saw the "cute" little halloween like persimmon serving on the table. It is not imaginable to see such a thing happened in ordinary Japanese restaurants not to mention a Michelin 2-star restaurant. Then the whole slow serving pace changed completely from the middle of the meal. All of a sudden everything became so rush and they served the dish one after another even we did not finish the previous ones. Again, this was really really odd arrangement. I visited many of the other Kaiseki restaurants and never had such experience. My mind was just with one thought : "What's wrong with them?" After the meal was rushed to an end, the chief Chef Maruyama-san finally came to our room to say hello and give us his cards. I therefore took this chance to tell him about the rotten perssimon. I would have thought it would kind of surprise him. However, on the contrary, he surprised me with a "I don't really care" attitude. He did not even try to give an explanation nor a sincere apology but just wanted to get out of the room as soon as possible. If he does not really mean to acquaint with customers, I really suggest him not to come to say hello at all. As a gourmet enthusiast, I can stand a restaurant not showing a welcome attitude to foreign guests by providing such kind of service to get them away. However, I cannot stand a chef does not take it seriously for the quality of the food that was presented to customers. The story did not end here. When the bill finally came, we were charged 1000 yen more for each person. They claimed the crab soup costs extra money. However, no one told us beforehand. Such kind of extra charge rarely happened in my 20 year travel experience in Japan and once again Maruyama restaurant gave me a real surprise.
Visited November 2014
“Top notch food and service!”
This restaurant truly live up to their reputation of being one of the best in Kyoto Kaiseki. There's a wide selection of set meals you can choose from and we chose a relatively high end meal which include seasonal ingredients (crabs in December). The meals were not cheap but they are definitely va...lue for money from the quality of the preparation, freshness of the ingredients, beautiful presentation, superb service, and charming environment. If you are a foodie and appreciate the fine details, this is one place you should not miss when in Kyoto.
“Top traditional Japanese Kaiseki restaurant”
The dinner was a complete experience. The traditional Japanese house, the private tatami room for two, the discreet and efficient service and the exquisite food, some prepared or grilled shall I say in front of us on a balcony behind a sliding glass door. The chef uses local seasonal ingredients suc...h as bamboo shoots and cherry flowers. Perhaps all these delicacies are not what we are accustomed to but they are tasty and very well presented. Expensive, most probably one of the best for a Japanese palate and very much worth the experience.
Visited April 2014